In the age of instant information, customers have become savvy to the traditional techniques used by salespeople and are tired of them. People simply don’t have the time to answer your cold call or to look at your marketing emails. Even if they did, people have wised up to these outbound methods.
They want information on their terms. When they want it. Not when you do.
That’s where content marketing comes into play. 93% of customers start their buying decisions online. If they come across your content and you are the first to add real value and insight to their buying journey, then they are more likely to choose your product or service.
‘But what exactly is content marketing?’
Well, content marketing is a strategic marketing and business approach. It focuses on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Sounds great, right?
It’s not a new approach, either. Taken in the most literal sense, the first instance of content marketing can be dated all the way back to 4200 BC with cave wall paintings on how to stay protected from wild boars.
Not a bad way to get people to return to your cave, is it? Hopefully they left a good review on TripAdvisor.
Jokes aside, the cave paintings are what content marketing is all about. The audience. There was no immediate or obvious benefit to the kind, prehistoric people who left the paintings. They were just simply helping whoever their audience happened to be.
That is what you, as a current or aspiring content marketer, should be aiming to do. Helping your visitors and customers in a way which adds value. Leave them with the feeling that they have been educated on a topic, not belittled. By doing this, you should build long-lasting, trusting relationships with your customers who may even recommend you to others. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth.
Even if you weren’t the right fit for them in the first instance, the good impression you leave makes them more likely to come back if they ever need your services.
But without content you’d have nothing concrete to deliver, especially online, thus missing out on these opportunities. You wouldn’t start a business with no products or services to deliver. So why create websites and social media pages and then leave them with little or no fresh content?
Content marketing provides you with a great opportunity to attract customers at a relatively low cost in a relatively quick manner, all while organically growing your business. Blogs are a really good place to begin as they are efficient and effective.
The content on your online platforms can play a key role in moving customers through the inbound methodology stages. You are essentially communicating without having to sell to your customers. Moving them through the attract, convert, close and delight stage without ever placing massive pressure on them to buy.
Besides the obvious benefits of increasing leads and improving reputation, content marketing is also massively beneficial to your business growth as it can be constantly observed. A content management systems (CMS) can show you everything from which posts are viewed the most to what generates the most leads and everything in between. BrightLocal and Google Analytics are some good tools for this. Have a look around and see what best suits your business.
So, how can you incorporate a content marketing plan into your wider business goals?
As with most long-term strategies, it is best to first make your overall content marketing goals SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely) so that you can observe the scalability of your efforts. It will help provide long-term vision and short-term motivation. Once you have decided your aims and ambitions, move onto identifying your buyer personas.
Creating a clear buyer persona is important to your content creation process as you want to provide content which is going to best target your intended audience. You don’t have to stick to just one persona. Create ones that fit your largest target demographics, but don’t create so many that the creation process becomes over-complicated and cluttered.
The final piece of the jigsaw to establishing your content marketing plan is to complete an audit or assessment on your business’ initiatives and assets. This will help you to assess all the marketing assets you have while also identifying gaps for improvement.
To do this, split your approach into two sections. Content audit and events audit. Your content audit should look at all the content you already have so that you can collect it in one place and sort through the good and the bad. Some tips to finding your hidden content are:
- Check your file manager or marketing folder.
- Check your websites or your post section on WordPress.
- Ask your sales team what collateral they use.
- Check in with employees to see if they have any content that could be used.
- If you have one, check the CRM and CMS systems to see if there is any content which performs exceedingly or is underwhelming.
Once this is done, move onto your events audit to ensure that your content creation is relevant and sustainable to your long-term goals. You could do this by organising:
- Your upcoming priorities by month.
- Your initiative overviews.
- Your theme.
- Your prospective blog post topics based on buyer personas.
- Your inbound marketing campaign that ties your efforts together.
While people will be working on individual content pieces, ensuring that everyone communicates and interacts with each other about their pieces is important to reaching your long-term goals. It is also a useful way to help improve the content being produced. Try to create an open-minded atmosphere where constructive criticism doesn’t cause affront and is instead welcomed.
So now you know the benefits of content marketing, what it brings to your business and how to do it; what are you waiting for? Go create some content!